In a controversial move, the White House seemingly contradicted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and said that cellphone unlocking should be legal. The response was brought about by a petition digitally signed by over 100,000 protesters who claimed criminalizing cellphone unlocking was not only foolish but restrictive as well.
As you may remember, a few months ago, petitioners were able to pressure the White House into actually considering building a Death Star. That petition was unsuccessful in swaying the powers that be. The petition to end the ban on cellphone unlocking may not be.
The argument stems from the massive subsidies that cellphone carriers offer new and current customers on new or upgraded hardware. These subsidies considerably cut the cost of cellphone and smartphone equipment (usually at least several hundred dollars) but does that give the carriers the right to restrict how and when those same customers use their device after their contracts have expired? As of January 28th it did. However, there is hope that this new cellphone unlocking petition may get the ball rolling toward a reversal.
The White House Takes a Stand in the Cellphone Unlocking Controversy
The United States is one of the few countries around the world that allows such restrictions. Most European and Asian countries allow customers to purchase cellphone hardware at full price and bring that equipment to whatever carrier they wish. This free cellphone movement has building momentum for years here in the U.S. and it’s finally good to have Big Brother (or at least 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) behind it as well. In a statement Monday, R. David Edelman – President Obama’s senior advisor for Internet, Innovation & Privacy – said that “the White House Agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cellphones without risking criminal or other penalties.” He went on to say that unlocking those phones would allow purchasers to retain some of the resale value on the tech gadgets and to give them as gifts to whomever they please. “All consumers deserve that flexibility,” he said.
That doesn’t mean the law has been abolished – it will take time and a healthy dose of fighting to get that done. It is a step in the right direction though. Convincing the Library of Congress – which was responsible for the DMCA – won’t be easy. They’ve agreed that the issue should be debated further and that John Q. Public should have a voice in those discussions.
Score one for the little guy!